How to stay warm on the river (column)
The cooler fall air has hit the Vail Valley. The chairlifts on the mountains are going to be turning very soon and most minds are starting to think about their favorite runs.
However, local anglers know that this time of year can provide some of the best fishing opportunities. The brown trout are spawning and the rainbows are putting on some extra weight to make it through the lean months of winter.
The only drawback to this time of year is the chilly weather that comes along with the onset of winter. Here are some tips to keep you warm and on the water throughout the fall and into the winter.
The name of the game for any cool or cold weather activity is layers. The best thing about wearing multiple layers is you can take them off as the day gets warmer.
I like to start with a thermal, next to skin layer on the top and bottom of my body. Pull out your ski/snowboard long underwear and this will get the job done. On top of the baselayer, I like throwing on a fleece pullover or hoodie on the top of the thermal layer. Fleece will keep you warm even if or when it gets wet, so it’s a great option for cold weather fishing.
Lastly, I like to wear my waterproof shell or rain jacket as my outer layer. The baselayer plus the fleece will keep you warm and the rain jacket will keep you dry in case the rain or snow decides to show up.
On the bottom, I like to wear fleece over my base layer, similar to the top layer.
Your ski/snowboard socks make for great fishing socks as well. They wick away sweat but keep your feet nice and toasty while standing in the cold river.
Your waders are your best friend this time of year. They will keep you dry and warm while at the same time allowing moisture to be disperse away from your body (with high end breathable waders).
There are two types of cold weather anglers, the ones that wear gloves and the ones that don’t.
I prefer my hands to be warm and functional when I’m fishing. When your hands get cold, it’s more difficult to tie flies on the end of the line, casting becomes more tougher and it’s difficult to stay out for long periods of time.
You can really use any type of glove that works best for you, however there are numerous options of “fishing” gloves on the market. I’m a big fan of the fold over mitten gloves because it’s the best of both worlds.
Keep those hands warm and you’ll be able to fish much longer.
If you are a winter sports enthusiast, then you probably already have a few extra hand or foot warmers laying around.
When the river water temperatures drop into the near freezing zone then foot warmers will definitely help lengthen your time on the water. I like to place the foot warmers on the top of my socks and then slide my feet into my waders. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to wear gloves, then hand warmers placed in your wader pockets or jacket will help warm up those hands in between casts and when your move locations.
Another problem that comes up when fishing in cold weather can be ice building up on the guides of your rod.
The constant give and take of fly line will bring water through the guides and if you are fishing in freezing or close to freezing temperatures, then there will be ice built up on the guides.
There are a lot of home remedies to fixing this problem but I haven’t found one that works 100 percent of the time. There is a product called Ice Off that helps prevent the ice from building, however you will still be chipping ice off after a short time. If you find a method that works all of the time, please let me know.
If you don’t mind a cold breeze on your face, then grab your warm hat and layer up. You will see very few people on the river, so all of the spots that have been taken all summer you will have to yourself. Take advantage of this time of year and explore the juicier sections of the river. Keep those hands warm and soak your legs in the cold water of the Eagle, it’s the best feeling after a long day of hitting the slopes.
Ray Kyle is a manager and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.